Monday, January 17, 2011

Social Teaching & American Audiences

In a long overdue move, the Vatican realizes the importance of helping some members of the American Catholic community come to term with many words and phrases used in the social teaching, in the way the Church defines them, rather than how some American interests do.

An excerpt from the article from Catholic News Agency.

“Vatican City, Jan 13, 2011 / 05:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When he travels to the United States next month, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson is aware that he may have to make some adjustments in the way he talks about the Church’s social teaching.

“As president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Ghanaian cardinal, 62, is charged with making the Church’s social teaching more widely known and practiced around the world….

“In a recent interview with CNA, Cardinal Turkson said he has learned from past experience that the Church’s justice and peace terminology often needs clarification for an American Catholic audience. Key terms used by the Vatican — such as “social justice” and “gift” — are not always understood the way the Vatican intends, he said.

"We found out that some of the vocabulary which is just taken for granted and used freely may not always have the same sense or may have had some nuances which sometimes are missed because of the way the terms are used in the American political context,” Cardinal Turkson said in a Jan. 12 interview at the council’s offices in Rome.

“Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Turkson to his post in Oct. 2009, just months after the Pope released his blueprint for the Church’s social teaching, “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth). The council has since made promotion of the Pope’s vision a top priority.

“The encyclical outlines Pope Benedict’s plan for "integral human development" in economics, society and politics through the principles of charity and truth.

“Cardinal Turkson said the Vatican is pleased by response to the document. But he said reaction from some sections of the audience in the United States was unexpected.

“The council has been surprised to find that common terms were misunderstood or misinterpreted. He emphasized that the misunderstanding was not a general or widespread problem among American Catholics. But, he said, "in certain circles ... there is a difficulty."

“For instance, the Pope's teaching on themes of "social justice" have been mistakenly connected to "socialism" and "communism." As a result, he indicated, the Pope is mistakenly seen as promoting socialist or big-government solutions to social problems.

“The council has also learned that words like "social" and "solidarity" may have been dismissed by American readers for their perceived connection with communist regimes such as the Soviet Union, he said.

“Cardinal Turkson explained that in the Church’s thinking, social justice involves citizens’ obligations and responsibilities to ensure fairness and opportunity in their communities and societies.

“While this may include the adoption of specific government policies and programs, the emphasis in Catholic social teaching is on the obligations that flow from citizens' relationships in societies.”